a tale in weekly parts
(formerly Albert and Jarvis)
In episodes 1-88, Albert and Jarvis told the story of a bitek construct that had been in the lives of the Grahamson family for three generations. Appearing in the form of a shepherd's hut (Jarvis) and its elderly occupant (Albert), an earlier experiment had resulted in the birth of Aloysius, a non-manifesting human/bitek hybrid. Alice and Alex, the two children that Aloysius had fathered with his wife, Magdalen, displayed strong bitek capabilities from an early age, though Alice was significantly more precocious than her younger brother. Albert and Jarvis nurtured and enhanced these capabilities through many adventures until the point where, to prevent a global catastrophe, the two needed to act together. The action needed more power than the two possessed. To produce stonger hybrids, Alex's seed was used to produce a young in a distantly related hybrid female in another dimension, while Alice was impregnated using her own bitek components. Albert and Jarvis absented themselves from the lives of the Grahamsons to allow Alice's pregnancy to progress in a safe, normal environment.
You can see the full story so far at this link.
A week is a very long time when you’re only ten years old – even if you just happen to be the most advanced human/bitek hybrid ever produced. For seven days after his birthday, the part of Zak that was a ten-year-old human boy, probably no more than forty percent of his persona, over-rode the older and wiser portion as well as the logic-driven bitek areas of his brain to produce exactly the level of excitement that you would expect to see from an intelligent, imaginative pre-teen.
And, despite their very best efforts, it was driving everyone else in the house: his mother, his uncle and his grandparents slowly but inexorably to that state of near-dementia that all parents know only too well.
Never having been a parent himself; not in the accepted, conventional sense of the word, anyway; Albert found the whole episode highly entertaining.
Finally, to just about everyone’s relief, the day arrived. Zak was up and about before 6am – a feat he never usually managed, even for such important occasions as Christmas. He spent the next two hours phasing between three bedrooms and Jarvis, waiting for someone… anyone to awaken and join him in his near-delirious state.
Albert was the first to surface. When he saw Zak standing there, jumping up and down as if in some kind of frenzy, he said just two short words. Zak was familiar with the second of the two words and knew not only what it meant, but also what it implied. The first word was new to him but when coupled with the second, he quickly picked up the gist of what Albert was trying to convey and phased off somewhere else.
Alice came to just before eight o’clock and saw her son standing at the foot of her bed.
“How long have you been standing there?” she asked.
“I don’t know how to answer that question,” he replied, “time is such a strange thing.”
“You can certainly say that again,” Alice said, immediately followed by, “on second thoughts – don’t. But listen. If you think normal time is weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
“What time can we go?”
“When everyone’s ready and not a second sooner. You really do need to learn patience, Zak.”
“Tried it once, remember? Dead boring. Fortnite’s fun, have you tried it?” Alice shook her head. Having just woken, her facial features were still half asleep, so it was impossible to tell whether the head-shaking was a negative reply or exasperation.
If he noticed, Zak didn’t care. “Shall I go and wake Granny and Grandpa?”
“Not if you like being alive.”
“What about Alex?”
“What can I do? I’m bored. I want to go, now!”
“You can go and set the table for breakfast. Will you do that?”
“Do it like a normal ten-year-old boy.”
“But that’ll take ages.”
“Yup. And Zak…”
“Don’t go making a lot of noise doing it, just to wake everybody up.”
“What makes you think I’d do that?”
“Because I know you, young man, and because it’s exactly what I would have done at your age. In fact, I did. And I’ve still got the emotional scars to remind me.”
“Okay, I suppose.”
As every experienced mother knows, there are occasions when you ask for certain behaviour, not because you believe it’s going to happen, but because it’s part of the game. You have to ask for that behaviour, in a way that suggests you expect to see it. It’s almost a sacred duty. Just as your child is under an absolute requirement to do exactly the opposite of what you ask. In the words of the immortal bard, “‘Twas ever thus”. In the words of the immoral Bart, “Bite me!”
In less time than it takes to boil an egg (okay, we are talking spectacularly hard-boiled – it was nearly twenty minutes) everyone was around the dining table eating breakfast.
Not everyone was wearing their most cheerful face.
Zak was. Wearing his most cheerful face, that is. So, interestingly, was Albert. But then; he hadn’t been awakened by the clattering of crockery in the kitchen.
Quite soon, the five were tucking into what could only be described as a celebration of cholesterol: eggs, bacon, tomato, sausages, mushrooms, black pudding and hash browns – all fried in butter with a generous pile of baked beans on the side.
“Albert,” Madge said, “this trip you’re taking Zak on; is it for all of us?”
“Just Alex, Alice and Zak this time,” Albert replied, “I can get away with transporting humans through space and time – although you’ll remember how tired you were for days after your last trip – but not across dimensions. It could leave you with damage that is beyond medical science to repair.”
“What about me?” Al asked, “I’m not fully human – as my darling wife keeps reminding me—”
“If you think you’re going swanning around dimensions while I sit here twiddling my thumbs, Aloysius Grahamson, you’ve got another think coming!” Madge bellowed.
“Well, I think that answers your question, Al, don’t you?” Albert said with a grin.
“Well,” Albert said, rising from the table [no, not levitation – he stood up. Although…], “if we’re all ready?”
Alex, Alice and Zak stood and moved to stand with Albert. Al started to move his chair in preparation. “SIT!” Madge commanded. Al remained seated while the others shimmered, reappearing with broad grins and, bizarrely, dressed – well, bizarrely.
“Can I tell Granny and Grandpa all about it?” Zak asked his mother.
“Of course,” she replied. Zak ran over and wrapped his ten-year-old arms around Madge, planted a kiss on her cheek and shook hands with Al.
“You lot are like dogs,” Al said, “you’ve hardly been gone ten seconds, but you’re greeting us like you’ve been away for days!”
“Weeks, actually, Grandpa. Speaking of dogs, though, where are they?”
“Blessed if I know, Zak. The three of them ran outside as soon as we got up. They’ll be back again when they’re hungry. Meanwhile, tell us about your birthday trip.”
“Well,” Zak began…